It took just the opening minutes of the first quarter of the Nets’ 121-112 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday to know Brooklyn’s league-best 12-game winning streak would come to an end.
The Nets did not come out sharp in Chicago for their first of both a three-game road trip and a four-game stretch against playoff competition.
When the Bulls took a 7-2 lead at the 9:37 mark in the first quarter — a run that required Kevin Durant to hit back-to-back pull up threes for the Nets to sustain — it became clear the Bulls were going to have the better energy on the night.
Durant carried the Nets from the opening tip. He scored a season second-most 44 points, including 30 in the first half alone. He shot 5-of-10 from downtown and 15-of-22 from the field as a whole.
It wasn’t enough to weather the storm in the Windy City. Brooklyn lost its first game since the Dec. 4 loss to the Boston Celtics.
Starting wing Royce O’Neale had a shooting night to forget. O’Neale, who has become a reliable shooter starting in place of Joe Harris, finished 0-of-9 from the field and missed all eight of his wide-open three-point attempts.
O’Neale missed three in a row to open the game, and another two wide-open looks late in the fourth quarter that could have closed the gap in crunch time.
Kyrie Irving finished with 25 points on 10-of-24 shooting but also struggled from downtown, shooting 1-of-8 from deep. The Nets shot just 12-of-37 from downtown as a team. Harris missed both of his looks from downtown, and Seth Curry was the only other bright spot on an abysmal night.
Curry shot six-of-seven from downtown for 22 points.
Meanwhile, the Nets struggled to stop a stronger and more physical Bulls team. Nikola Vucevic, who has tortured the Nets since his time as an All-Star in Orlando, finished with 21 points. DeMar DeRozan scored 22 and Bulls forward Patrick Williams matched him with 22 of his own.
The Nets lost on the rebounding margin, 46-34. It was one of their worse performances of the last month, coming the day after Jacque Vaughn earned Coach of Month of December honors.
The Nets now look on to their next game, with CJ McCollum and the New Orleans Pelicans hosting without Zion Williamson on Friday.